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Wendy’s: overly clever marketing, jargon causing confusion

Wendy’s has been an inspiration to businesses for revamping their company from the ground up this year, but with one clever coupon that has gone viral, they’ve proven that a simple marketing message can cause confusion, and possibly brand damage.

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There is such a thing as too clever

Wendy’s is a top brand in America, recognizable to all passerby, and the company has not only undergone a revamping of their store interiors, menus, and ingredients, but has even interviewed every staff member, retaining only the top, committed talent. The brand has served as an inspiration to companies of all sizes to shed dead weight and put forward their best efforts only, seeking to be best in brand.

Additionally, the Wendy’s marketing department has always been a clever bunch, and the company has a silly tone at times. “Sit next to the choking poster,” one ad says, featuring a giant burger. Clever. Creative. Memorable.

But this week, a coupon was circulated that had consumers flocking to the internet to ask what it meant. Perhaps it was too clever, snarky, and trying to be memorable:

A redhead? Does she clean your house, or what?

A redhead? Is that a doll? A person who Wendy’s will send to your house to clean or maybe be your comedic best friend? Is it a head of cheese that has been dyed red? Or is Wendy’s engaging in human trafficking?

The last question was very seriously asked by many consumers, particularly on web community Reddit, where the coupon was originally shared before it went viral online. Fortunately, there was a small minority that understood that “redhead” is slang for coffee, but it wasn’t immediately apparent, nor would it be to most people that get a coupon like this in a flyer or in their mailbox.

It is easy to forget as a professional that your industry jargon is not commonly understood outside of your industry, but moreover, there is such a thing as being too clever. Marketing departments are made up of many people, and something like this should have been caught by at least one person not willing to take the risk of being too clever.

The lesson for businesses of all sizes

This will be an easy fix for Wendy’s, as the brand can simply offer an explanation online, and they will likely spin it into an entire campaign to teach the world what a “small hot original redhead” is rather than slinking into the shadows. The terminology will likely appear in television, print and web ads in an effort to eliminate its use as internal or industry jargon, rather make it widespread, so there is no harm, no foul.

In some businesses, the owner (maybe you) wear many hats, including marketing, so it is always a good idea to ask for input on marketing messages, especially when attempting humor, because sometimes humor makes you look like you’re offering a coupon in exchange for a human trafficking victim, and confusion can do more damage than having an ad that is not clever. Wendy’s has the budget and size to insert the phrase into the American lexicon, but if your brand does not, you may reconsider the clever approach – don’t avoid it, but do screen it, even by asking family or friends to look at it before it goes to print.

AGBeat has reached out to Wendy’s to verify this coupon.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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Business Marketing

How Nestle’s emotional branding converted a nation into coffee drinkers

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Nestle hired a psychoanalyst to convert a nation to coffee with long term, science backed strategies connected to why we like what we like.

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nestle japan coffee

When Nestle first attempted to market coffee in Japan in the 1970s, it did not go well. Though their products tested well with audiences and was priced affordably, sales never took off. Nestle was committed to break into the profitable Japanese market and embarked on research that would inform an innovative new strategy going forward.

Nestle hired French social psychologist, Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, who specialized in the emotional bonds people form with objects. Dr. Rapaille conducted various experiments with participant groups to better understand why people were not buying coffee in the Japanese market. In one such experiment, Dr. Rapaille played calming music while participants lay on the ground. He asked them to talk through early childhood memories. He then asked participants to share experiences and emotions they associated with various products from their childhoods.

Participants did so, except when it came to coffee. Most had no memories of coffee and therefore no emotional bond to it. Japan had long been a tea drinking society, very few sections of society included coffee drinkers. Sales reflected the lack of cultural familiarity with coffee; it was not part of Japanese life. This understanding from Dr. Rapaille’s research sparked a bold marketing move with a long-term strategy in mind.

Nestle created coffee-flavored chocolate and marketed them to children. Introducing the flavor of coffee to Japanese youth while at an early age would not only imprint the flavor profile on them, but they would associate the flavor with positive emotions. Nestle tested, manufactured, and sold their coffee-flavored chocolate in Japan. They were immediately popular with youth and eventually with their curious parents who wanted to give the flavor a try.

A reentry into the coffee market by Nestle years later was met with a different response than the first attempt. The kids that grew up with coffee-flavored candies were now a part of the workforce and ready to become coffee drinkers. Today, Nestle imports nearly 500 million tons of coffee per year.

What began with a failed attempt at entering the coffee market resulted in a long-term strategy that proved that strong emotional bonds with customers can build strong sales.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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work week rush

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and…hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care…that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well…probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.

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Snapchat's video

Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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